Thursday, February 19, 2009

Should Roland, Roland, Roland roll his way out of the Capitol Hill scene?

I’m reluctant to get too worked up over the Roland Burris saga these days because it seems that everybody who is willing to come out and demand a piece of Burris’ political scalp is doing so to promote his or her own self-interest.

The reporter-type person in me gets repulsed at being used to promote anyone’s personal agenda. It seems to me like saying “Roland Must Go!” would do little more than give someone a jolt of self-gratification as they use the predicament of the incumbent junior senator from Illinois to score political points for themselves.

SO WHILE I’LL be the first to admit that Burris didn’t tell “the whole truth” when he testified last month before an Illinois House panel that eventually recommended impeachment for now-former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, I still don’t believe he committed the offense of perjury.

He answered what he was asked, and too much of the rhetoric being spewed this week is coming from political types who want to obscure the fact that the Illinois House panel didn’t do as effective a job as it could have in grilling the one-time state attorney general for how much contact he had with Blagojevich and his aides before getting the Senate appointment.

That hasn’t stopped political people from trying to get attention for themselves by taking a potshot at Roland Burris.

Take Sara Feigenholtz, the state legislator from the Lakeview neighborhood who wants to replace Rahm Emanuel in Congress. I woke up Wednesday morning to an e-mail-ed press release telling me that even the “lady from Cook” wants Roland to go away.

THAT STATEMENT SEEMED to me to be little more than an attempt to distinguish herself from the couple dozen people running in the special election to replace Rahm as the Northwest Side’s member of Congress. Except that congressional opponent Mike Quigley made the same demand.

And when I learned that Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., also was calling for a Burris resignation from the Senate, I couldn’t help but remember that the Evanston resident was one of the people who once dreamed of getting an appointment to the Senate seat abandoned by Barack Obama when he won the 2008 presidential election.

Does Schakowsky think that she can persuade Gov. Pat Quinn to give her the appointment, should the Senate seat from Illinois manage to open up again with a Burris resignation?

It even came across as trite when William Daley, brother of the current mayor and son of the legendary one, said that Burris needs to do “serious reflection” about whether he truly wants to endure the ridicule to which he will be subjected for the next two years if he remains in the U.S. Senate.

DALEY HIMSELF HAS been the subject of speculation that he wants to have a political post that would make him something of an equivalent to his mayoral brother, Rich.

While most people usually mention Illinois governor as the post of choice for the one-time Commerce secretary (whose highlight of his stint was when he passed out from the hot lights used at his introductory press conference), perhaps Bill thinks “Sen. William Daley, D-Ill.,” would be an acceptable title for him to have.

In short, Democrats are showing that they are just as capable of using the Burris predicament to promote their own causes as are Republican political people.

These are the ones who are constantly throwing out the word “perjury” to make it appear that Roland Burris is just a few seconds away from being hauled off to the minimum-security prison camp at Oxford, Wis.

NOT THAT THEY really expect Burris to receive an “Oxford education” in his aging years. They just want an outraged electorate consisting of people who will vote for anyone except a Democrat come the 2010 statewide elections.

This idea of self-interest even extends to the newspaper editorials that are now starting to appear.

On Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune, the Times of Northwest Indiana and the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill., all ran editorials demanding that Burris step down from the Senate.

I don’t think those newspapers seriously expect Roland Burris’ ego to allow him to contemplate resignation. But those newspapers got significant attention outside of their circulation areas. The Tribune in particular got a free plug on just about every national newscast Wednesday as being the hometown paper that had the nerve to use the “r” word in connection with Burris.

ONE NEWSPAPER THAT did NOT call for resignation was the Chicago Sun-Times. As the newspaper wrote about its editorial board process earlier this week, “we knew it would be useless to call on Burris to resign – he won’t.”

Yet even they managed to turn a Burris editorial into a self-serving promotion for itself. They used an editorial to tout the fact that it was the Sun-Times that originally published stories that showed discrepancies between what Burris told the Illinois House impeachment panel and what he now concedes to be fact about the process by which he became a U.S. senator.

They turned it into an editorial explaining why newspapers continue to be relevant in our society, saying it was possible that we wouldn’t know anything about this situation if not for the one-time “Bright One.”

I don’t quite know if I believe that. That supplemental paperwork sent by Burris to Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, would have become public eventually.

BUT I WILL give the newspaper some credit in realizing that adding to the echoes caused by repeated pleas for resignation will do little good.

Anybody who doubts me ought to listen to Burris’ own words when he addressed the Chicago City Club on Wednesday.

Burris made it clear he believes he has done nothing wrong, saying, “if I had done the things I am accused of, I’d be embarrassed to stand up here because I consider you my friends.”


EDITOR’S NOTES: Newspapers from both Chicagoland (,0,6946762.story) and downstate ( feel the need to speak out against Roland Burris in the U.S. Senate. Even a Hoosier-based newspaper, albeit one whose circulation area spills over into Illinois and Chicago, felt ( a need to take an editorial stance.

Roland won’t resign, but aren’t newspapers (,CST-EDT-edit17.article) wonderful?

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